Analyst sticks to BlackBerry Tour return rate report

Despite operator denials, an analyst stands behind his research that found 50 percent of Tours at Sprint are returned

The analyst who reported that a high percentage of BlackBerry Tour buyers are returning them because of trackball issues is standing by his research despite strong denials by operators.

Nearly 50 percent of Tour owners with Sprint wireless service have returned them because of a problem that requires users to repeatedly swipe the trackball in order to move the cursor only minimally, David Eller, an analyst at TownHall Research, wrote in a report.

Verizon also has a high number of returns, he said.

Many people are complaining about the trackball problems on various online forums.

But Sprint says only a "small percentage" of early production Tours had the trackball issue.

Verizon also minimizes the issue. "The Tour is not being returned at a high rate," Jim Gerace, a Verizon spokesman, said.

"It has in fact one of the lowest return rates of any device we currently sell."

Verizon caught the problem with the trackball early on and only a "small number" made it to customers, he said. He could not specify how many.

Eller says he's confident that his report is accurate and the statements from the operators conflict with his research. He did not examine all Sprint retail channels but talked to people in the field who reported the high return rates.

"Whether or not that's representative of Sprint in its entirety, that's tough to say, but it is happening," he said.

There's no question that Verizon is frustrated about the problem, he said. That's in part because the majority of smartphones from Verizon come from Research In Motion, the BlackBerry maker.

He expects this situation to spur Verizon to more heavily promote forthcoming phones from Motorola as a way to try to pull back on its reliance on RIM.

Eller wanted to correct an error in his original report. It said that some returns were due to problems with the touch screen on the Tour. However, the Tour doesn't have a touch screen.

Eller said that line was added by someone else or incorrectly edited after he authored the report.

By publication time, RIM had not replied to a request for comment made on Wednesday morning.

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